JERUSALEM (Oct. 23)
Minister-Without-Portfolio Moshe Arens emerged as a possible center of conflict between Labor and Likud Wednesday when he began to deal with Soviet Jewry affairs despite explicit and vehement objections by the Labor Party.
Premier Yitzhak Shamir’s intention to assign that issue to Arens was opposed by outgoing Premier Shimon Peres, and no agreement was reached on the matter when Peres formally turned over his office to Shamir on Tuesday. Labor maintains that matters related to Soviet Jews are the province of the Ministry of Absorption and the Foreign Ministry, both of which are now held by Labor.
Nevertheless, Arens conferred on the subject Wednesday with World Jewish Congress president Edgar Bronfman and Yosef Mendelevich, chairman of the Information Center on Soviet Jewry. A spokesman for Arens said he was acting on the instructions of Shamir to “lead” and manage handling of the subject.
But a spokesman for Shamir said the Prime Minister has not yet delegated responsibility for Soviet Jewry to Arens, though he intends to. Until now they have only discussed the matter, the spokesman said.
Laborite Moshe Shahal, who is Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, warned that in the absence of any agreement, action taken on the Soviet Jewry issue by Arens would have neither moral nor legal validity. He said Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Peres will raise the matter immediately with Shamir.
Arens, a Herut hardliner, also began on Wednesday to deal with Arab affairs, a responsibility held by Minister-Without-Portfolio Ezer Weizman in the Peres administration.